Developer: The Fullbright Company
Release Date: August 2, 2017
Tacoma is a narrative adventure set aboard a high-tech space station in the year 2088. As you go about your mission, you’ll explore every detail of how the station’s crew lived and worked, finding the clues that add up to a gripping story of trust, fear, and resolve in the face of disaster.
At the heart of Tacoma is the facility’s digital surveillance system, which has captured 3D recordings of pivotal moments in the crew’s life on the station. As you explore, echoes of these captured moments surround you. You’ll use your ability to rewind, fast-forward, and move through the physical space of these complex, interwoven scenes to examine events from every angle, reconstructing the multi-layered narrative as you explore.
Tacoma is the next game from the creators of Gone Home, and carries on that tradition of detailed, immersive, and powerful storytelling, while pulling players deeper into the narrative than ever before.
As we’ve established previously, I’m not a game person. I’m simply a booknerd on a quest to find stories in other places. And I’ll tell you this now, Tacoma has one hell of a story. I’ve had brilliant experiences with multi-perspective books, and I was curious to see how Fullbright handled multiple perspectives in Tacoma.
As you play from the perspective of Amy Ferrier, you get to explore the space station Tacoma which was recently abandoned by its crew. Scattered throughout the ship are augmented reality (AR) videos that take you through the crew’s story. These videos were recorded anywhere from 8 months to 16 hours ago, and you use them to dive into the lives the characters.
I loved the way that the story was presented here. You have what has already happened to the original crew, and then what your character sees. The story takes on this multiple perspective lens where you observe AR versions of the crew members running around, performing tasks, and having conversations. The AR medium allows you to sit in on conversations, rewind, and then follow different characters as they move through the ship and interact with one another. It’s like a third-person story following the lives of five different characters, but you get to see them move, react, and live. Honestly, by the end of it, I was so invested in all of their lives that I was sad to be done with the game and to have completed the story. However, just like books can be reread, games can be replayed. Now I’m aiming to get all the achievements!
Something I appreciated about this game is that the characters were very diverse. It wasn’t just their racial backgrounds, though people of colour were certainly represented, but also the fact that they had people of different sexual orientations, body types, and believable personalities. Each character was very distinct when compared to the others and that really fed into the character and story development. Further, as you dive into their lives, you get to see snippets of who and what they left behind on Earth. In time, you also get to hear them talk to their families, converse with Odin, and read through their emails and text chats. This investigative aspect made me a lot more invested in the characters, their lives, and what happened to them.
Another fun little detail is how languages are translated. Throughout the ship there are items with various languages written on them. As you go through, most of them will automatically be translated for you – but you do have the option to turn it off. The packaging for some of these things were really detailed and well thought out.
Off to the technical aspects, and I have to say that the interface was pretty straightforward and easy to understand. I wasn’t sure what to do when presented with the first video (icons pop up on the video bar), but I figured out that it was a signal that something important occurred for a different character who may not be in the same place. As noted earlier, this aspect drives you to seek out the other characters and see what is happening with them. Sometimes it’s easy, but sometimes you need to examine the environment in order to find a pass code to the door. It’s really quite addicting.
On the topic of details, I appreciated the different books featured in the game and the literary references made throughout the game. There’s some Sylvia Plath, Shakespeare, and much more. I think the funniest part is that even in a space station classic literature is being read. Bet Shakespeare never anticipated his works would get all the way out there!
Finally, the art. This game is visually detailed and realistic while still being slightly stylized. As you can see, each character shines brightly with their unique colours, but the scenery is also something to be admired. As you explore, the environment is just as important as the people and the videos, and it’s extremely detailed and riddled with secrets and answers. Additionally, the environment often blends with the music, setting the atmosphere for the AR videos and that specific area of the ship. To be honest, my base mood throughout the game was mildly fearful – I mean you’re walking through an abandoned ship, it’s bound to be a little creepy. But it was so amazing exploring the world and the lives of these characters that I couldn’t stop playing.
This game was like a story you walked through. Maybe it won’t be as interesting to people who prefer action games, but it was amazingly fascinating and new to someone like me who tends to prefer flipping through the pages of a book. The story and the characters were extremely well developed given the short timeline that you, the player, are given to get to know them (it’s about a 3-4 hour long game). I appreciated that the short length allowed you to take in the entire story in one or two sittings. All in all, I’d recommend booknerds give this game a try – I think you’ll all love it!
Steam Code obtained via The Fullbright Company in exchange for an honest review.